If you had told me a month ago that Michigan would get blown out against MSU and lose to Penn State within the span of a few weeks, I would have said you were crazy.
The fourth-ranked Wolverines (23-5, 10-5 B1G) host the ninth-ranked Spartans (22-6, 11-4 B1G) looking for a much different result in their second match-up.
Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team absolutely dominated the previous game in East Lansing. They are a bigger, more physical team that, in my opinion, is better coached. Michigan has a talent advantage over nearly every team in the nation, but they have costly mental breakdowns at times and it has cost them over the last seven or so games. The Spartans will hop all over them much like they did in the last match-up if this continues to happen.
MSU has struggled as of late, too, losing two straight games. Both teams will enter Sunday’s game at the Crisler Center looking to right the ship and gain some momentum going into March.
Michigan all but eliminated themselves from Big Ten Title contention with their head-scratching loss to a horrid Penn State on Wednesday, but they do have a lot to play for still.
In order for them to win this game, Trey Burke needs to become a leader. He will always be a guy that fills up a stat sheet, but when the chips are down, he has disappeared when the Wolverines needed him most this season. I would like to see Burke get his teammates involved and drive the line instead of his vintage “fade away three-pointer” routine. Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr need to be at their best tomorrow.
Defensively, the effort from Wednesday’s game in Happy Valley just will not cut it in this game. The Nittany Lions are not a great perimeter shooting team, but they were allowed to make 10 threes in that game.Spartan freshman Gary Harris is one of the best pure shooters in the country and cannot be allowed free reign from beyond the arc or else this game will be lop sided much like the last one. The bigs need to play physical and keep Adrien Payne and Derrick Nix from wreaking havoc in the paint. A healthy Jordan Morgan will be huge in this game.
The match-up of the day will be between Keith Appling and Trey Burke. Whoever makes the least amount of mistakes will go a long way in determining how this game ends up. There are times this year where Appling has looked every bit as good as Burke, but also times where he looks like a complete bonehead. The Wolverines need to force the latter to happen to pull out the win.
Michigan has not fared well in national showdown games this season. They had better get used to it, because March Madness is upon us. The best thing about the next day is a chance to learn from your mistakes.
The game tips at 4pm on CBS.